Rightly called the Paradise of the Pacific, Hawaii is overflowing with natural beauty. From the dramatic volcanic cliffs to soft sand beaches, every corner of the archipelago is worth checking out. But when should you book your Hawaii trip – what’s the best time to explore the Hawaiian Islands?
The short answer: The months of April, May, September, and October are the most enjoyable when it comes to temperature and overall weather.
That being said, the best time to visit can be highly subjective. Some travelers are happy to visit among the holiday crowd, while some prefer traveling around in solace. Also, if you have a limited budget, you’d want to visit Hawaii when the price of airfare and accommodations are the cheapest. The perfect time to travel to Hawaii also depends on which island you wish to visit, as each one is different with its own unique charm and attractions.
It can be overwhelming to plan your trip with so many factors vying for your attention. This is where we come in. In this post, we have compiled everything you need to know to plan your ideal trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii Travel Seasons
Like any travel destination, Hawaii has two distinct seasons: low and high. “Low” season is when – as you can guess – the cost of the trip is at its lowest because the place is least busy or crowded. In Hawaii, low season stretches from mid-April to early June, and then again from September to mid-December.
“High” season usually refers to regular holiday periods when most people travel. Anyone in school or with a child in school can only manage to travel during summer or key holiday periods (like Christmas or 4th of July). Since this makes up for the majority of the population, traveling to Hawaii during these times is EXPENSIVE.
The low season or off-season in Hawaii runs from mid-April to early June (late spring) and September to mid-December (fall) – honestly, we think it’s a paradox considering these are the absolute best times to be in Hawaii.
If you want to avoid the crowds, are looking to save money, or if you just want reliably great weather, this is the time to visit. Airfares and hotel rates tend to be substantially lower, and with a little bit of online legwork, you can find several good deals.
The only exception you should be aware of is the Golden Week which occurs in the last week of April and stretches through early May. Due to its close proximity to Japan, Hawaii is the go-to destination for Japanese tourists during this period when their four major holidays take place one after the other. If you’re planning to visit between the last week in April and early May, make sure to book your inter-island flights, hotels, and car rentals in advance.
It’s peak season in Hawaii from mid-December to March. Resorts are booked to capacity and prices are up, especially in the last two weeks of December and the first week of January. As spring break also falls during this period, Hawaii is jam-packed with families that descend on the archipelago to take advantage of the school holiday.
If you want to visit during the high season, make your flight, hotel, and rental car reservations at least three months in advance, if not more. Hundreds of thousands of people travel to Hawaii for popular holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July, so expect to pay top dollar and rub shoulders with the crowds.
We understand how tempting it can be to decide to cool off on a stunning tropical beach in Oahu or Maui, but keep in mind that a large number of families have the same idea each year. From June to August, the summer-time crowds are everywhere in Hawaii, so don’t expect to find serious bargains until spring and fall. This is vital to keep in mind during these high gas and high inflation times.
Summer months are also the warmest here, with temperatures climbing into the 90s. In addition to heat, it can also get pretty humid on some of the islands, like Oahu. For those who want to, say, go hiking through the legendary black lava fields of the Big Island, the peak of summer in June, July, or August might not be the best time to do so.
The good thing about this weather though is that the surf is at its lowest. If you have small children or you want to learn how to swim or surf, the 80-degree water is really pleasant.
Need a more detailed monthly breakdown of visiting Hawaii? We’ve got you covered. The below articles discuss each month in more detail.
Best Time to Visit Hawaii for Good Weather
In terms of weather, spring and fall are the best times to enjoy the Aloha State.
Spring marks the beginning of the “dry” season in Hawaii and you couldn’t ask for nicer weather. This is also usually when airfare, hotels, Airbnbs, and other rental prices start to drop. Flowers are blooming, locals are celebrating the fantastic produce, and the annual week-long Merrie Monarch Festival adds to the good time with music, dance, and arts. The May Lei Day is also celebrated during this period.
While it rains every day somewhere in Hawaii at any time of the year, it seldom rains here in spring.
The year-round temperature doesn’t vary much. The daytime temperatures in summer near the beach average between 84°F and 86°F, and the nighttime lows are typically about 10 degrees cooler.
Most water activities – swimming, surfing, diving – are better in the spring and fall seasons as the ocean is calmer and thus, safer. In the winter, currents are much stronger, waves are bigger, and storms make the weather even more unpredictable. If you are a water lover, March, April, and May (i.e, late spring) would be the perfect time to visit Hawaii. Fall (September, October, and November) is equally impressive for that fabulous weather, calm waters, and fewer crowds.
Best Time to Visit Hawaii on a Budget
The cheapest time to buy flight tickets and book accommodations and car rentals in Hawaii is during the low season when it’s much quieter.
As mentioned above, September through early December is the low of the off-peak season, and reduced demand leads to lower prices. The only exception is the Thanksgiving weekend since the military personnel based on the islands make travel arrangements with their family.
If you can’t get away in the fall, don’t worry, the months of April and May also offer a great opportunity to travel cheaply to Hawaii. Just avoid the last week of April and the first week of May (because of the Golden Week). The rest of these two months are always abound with great deals on everything.
Flight ticket prices will vary, but they mostly depend on when you’re flying and where you’re flying from. Tickets from the West Coast are the cheapest at $350 – $475 per person, but we have seen even lower than that in the low season. East Coast to Hawaii tickets can be doubly expensive no matter when you fly, but you can still find some good discounts.
Here are a few tips to save money on flights:
Fly during the week: Weekday flights are not as in-demand as the weekend ones; you can save even more by taking a red-eye flight.
Book at least a month in advance: We highly recommend buying your tickets 30-40 days before the date of your departure.
Be flexible: Some Hawaiian airports are way cheaper than others; consider flying to Lihue (Kauai), Kahului (Maui), and Honolulu (Oahu) to save some more bucks.
The cost of your accommodations in Hawaii will vary depending on what kind of property it is – budget or luxury. You can stay in a $40/night hostel or a $300+/night hotel. Hotel prices usually don’t go below $160-$180 per night even during the least crowded times, but if you’re willing to make some sacrifices (like a room without an ocean view), you can save considerably.
Before the 2021 rental car shortage, it was easy to find a mid-sized or economy car to rent for $40. Now, with more people traveling again – and since rental car companies sold off most of their fleets in 2020 – the prices have increased to $75/day and more including taxes. You can probably find a cheaper deal by looking around and comparing prices. We mainly use Turo when looking for budget options for car rentals.
See Also: Do I need to rent a car in Maui?
Best Time to Avoid Big Crowds
April, May, September (the last two weeks) and November are the best times to avoid hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to Hawaii each year. Personally, we absolutely love late September and early October to explore the hidden gems as well as popular “touristy” spots in peace. With children back in school, you won’t find many families here this time of year.
The Most Popular Time to Visit Hawaii
Summer (June, July, and August) is the peak season that attracts the largest crowds, other than Christmas and New Year in winter of course. It is understandable, that when the weather is hot and muggy in most of the US, people seek relief at Hawaii’s beaches. Plus, schools are out so both vacationing families and locals are looking to the waters for some much-needed fun.
This is why summer is one of the priciest and busiest times to fly to Hawaii.
But hey, don’t take this to mean we are hating on the Hawaiian summers – not at all! Despite how crowded and expensive summer gets, the waters are at their calmest, making it perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
See Also: The 5 Best Snorkeling Places in Oahu
June and July are considered dry months so they don’t receive a lot of rainfall, which can be a blessing for some adventurers. This is also when waterfalls are at their weakest so you can take a ton of Instagram-worthy pictures.
The Worst Time to Visit Hawaii
You may have heard that there is no bad time to visit Hawaii. Well, about that…If you talk to a local they will tell you that Hawaii should be avoided during certain months. These include the wet season (heavy-rainfall months) and the busy season. And both of these seasons coincide in December.
December, in our opinion, can be a not-so-good time to visit the islands. From mid-December to New Year, Christmas-cheery visitors come to Hawaii from all across the world, resulting in higher rates for flights, accommodations, and rental cars.
December is also the wettest and coldest month of the year. We know, we know, Hawaiian winters are not really winters but when temperatures only reach the high 70s, you won’t find it as easy to go frolicking in the waters.
Best Time for a Honeymoon, Babymoon, or Destination Wedding
Looking for a picture-perfect destination for a major milestone in your life? Be it the wedding of your dreams or your long-awaited honeymoon or babymoon, Hawaii has got you covered.
Although these paradise-like islands are beautiful all year round, we recommend choosing April or May for the least amount of problematic and unpredictable weather. You probably also want to avoid crowds, so choosing low seasons from mid-April to May or even mid-June, and September to mid-December will be a good idea. If you want a winter-ish wedding, November is ideal as it’s the least busy and least expensive during this time.
Best Time to See Wildlife
One of the most exciting parts of a getaway in Hawaii is seeing all of the stunning wildlife around the archipelago. Humpback whales, dolphins, tropical fish, and more can be found in the waters throughout the year. However, there are certain times of the year when you’re more likely to encounter these creatures:
The humpback whale-watching season in Hawaii starts in December and lasts through March. Maui is the best place for spotting whales, but other islands also offer several opportunities during the season. Make sure to book a guided whale-watching tour so an experienced guide can take you to the best viewing areas.
May is typically the birthing season for monk seals in Hawaii, so this is when you’ll likely spot them. But please keep in mind that monk seals are a critically endangered species here and less than 1,500 are alive today. If you’re hoping to see them, Kauai would be where you’d have the highest chance. In case you see one, give them at least 25 feet of space.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
May to September is the best time to spot sea turtles; this is when they come out of the sea and head to the beaches to lay their eggs. Again, when you see a turtle, keep your distance. We get it, they are super cute, but if you are caught touching, feeding, holding, or mishandling them in any way, you can face hefty fines plus jail time.
Best Time for Swimming and Snorkeling
The year-round water temperatures in Hawaii average about 77°F – 79°F, so you can swim comfortably any time you want. That being said, when it comes to swimming and snorkeling, the warmer the water, the better.
For that, the summer months – June, July, and August – are best to get the most out of those warm tropical waters. While winters are not that cold, the water can get chilly so many people choose to wear a wetsuit to safely enjoy their time in the ocean. Summer is better for snorkeling because of the smaller waves and calmer waters. If you’re really into snorkeling, we recommend Maui or the Big Island, as both see less rain and wind compared to the other islands.
Best Time for Surfing
If you are a skilled and advanced surfer, the best time to surf in Hawaii is the winter season, i.e., from mid-November to early February. Waves are bigger and stronger during this time, which explains why some of the biggest surfing competitions are held in Hawaii in winter.
As for the best spots to surf, look up the “7 Mile Miracle” on Oahu’s North Shore. It’s widely considered the mecca of surfing and welcomes thousands of pro surfers every year who seek to ride the most massive waves of their life.
If you are a beginner or want to learn to surf, stay away from the northern shores of the Hawaiian Islands – instead, try your hand on the southern shores which are calmer.
Best Time for Festivals and Events
Throughout the Islands, visitors and residents alike look forward to the return of Hawaii’s most beloved festivals and affairs. Here is a list of some of the most popular events across the islands that take place every year:
King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade on Oahu (June): The celebration is held on all of the Hawaiian Islands, but Oahu’s floral parade is something else. Imagine traditional pāʻū riders, brightly decorated floats, and lively marching bands representing the royal court in their full Hawaiian glory.
World Whale Film Festival on Maui (June): The Pacific Whale Foundation organizes a film festival each year that features a screening of films (about ocean conservation) under the stars along with drinks and dinner.
Kapalua Wine & Food Festival on Maui (June): Head to the world-renowned Kapalua Resort to taste wines and delicacies from award-winning wineries and chefs.
Ukulele Festival Hawaii on Oahu (July): The largest international festival of its kind, it brings together the most talented ukulele musicians from around the globe.
Duke’s Oceanfest on Oahu (August): This Oceanfest honors the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku through exciting water sports competitions including swimming, surfing, surf polo, and stand-up paddling.
Aloha Festivals (September): There is no bigger, grander celebration of Hawaiian culture than the annual Aloha Festivals held across all islands throughout September. Think of it as a gigantic block party with colorful parades, live music, fire dance performers, hula dancers, food, and much more.
Okinawan Festival on Oahu (September): This festival is one of the biggest celebrations of Japanese heritage in Hawaii. It’s held over two days and features dozens of vendors offering Okinawan food, arts, crafts, and culture classes.
Chocolate and Coffee Festival on Kauai (October): As you can guess, the festival celebrates all things coffee and cacao in the most deliciously possible ways. There are farm tours, workshops, tastings, and lots of activities for children.
Food and Wine Festival on Oahu (November): Top chefs from Hawaii and across the world prepare unique culinary experiences and tastings in this annual festival. Expect to land in a food coma with dishes made from locally-grown, organic ingredients, freshly-caught seafood, and sustainable farming practices.
Kona Coffee Festival on the Big Island (November): This is your chance to find and enjoy some of the best coffee you’ll ever find anywhere. The festival celebrates the history, artisans, and pioneers of coffee farming in Hawaii throughout the decades.
Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island (April): This event is a vibrant celebration of Hawaii and hula via a number of parades and performances held over an entire week. The hula competition is one of the most popular highlights of the festival.
Night at the Old Lahaina Prison on Maui (May): For those traveling with kids, don’t miss this one. The historic old prison building in Lahaina has been restored and opened to the public for free. On every May 21st, the prison throws a special overnight event with snacks, whaling era crafts, and exploration of the entire compound by lantern at night.
Best Time for Hiking
As hiking lovers ourselves, let us tell you something: the trails in Hawaii are on another level. Whether you want to set off on a challenging trail through lava fields, test your mettle on some ridgeline hikes with cliffs on either side or explore the historic sites through scenic routes, Hawaii has everything.
April to October is the best time to hike in Hawaii. The weather is pleasant and on the drier side, so you can explore the amazing trails without the fear of rain looming over you. Well, it can rain at any time, but these months see minimal rainfall.
Every major island – the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, and Molokai – has some great trails, but the ones near the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island seem to be the most popular.
Best Time to See a Volcano
There is no best season or month to see a lava-spewing volcano in Hawaii (or anywhere tbh). Volcano activity is driven by movement in the subterranean region; it doesn’t matter which season it is.
The only active volcano in Hawaii right now is Kilauea, located mostly within the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. You can visit it any time you want to see the lava flowing out of the volcano. If you’re visiting in winter or watching something like this from a higher elevation, make sure to bring a jacket as it can get chilly.
Best Time For Stargazing
The best time to gaze at the stars in Hawaii is between March and September when there is the least amount of rain and storms. If you’re visiting during this time, head over to Mauna Kea on the Big Island; it’s home to the largest astronomical observatory in the world and the best spot for stargazing. The west side of Kauai (especially Kekaha, Waimea, and Polihale State Park) is also a tremendous place to observe several celestial objects.
Best Time to Visit the Four Main Hawaiian Islands
The best time to visit Oahu and its city of Honolulu is April, May, the last week of September, October, and November. Temperatures both outside and in the water are warmer during these months, making it perfect to stroll on Waikiki Beach in shorts and flip-flops. Rainfall is also lower so you can explore the entire island without coming across big tropical storms.
For thrill-seeking souls, the Kualoa Ranch on the northeast side of the island offers some Jurassic Park-level adventures.
If crowds are not your thing, avoid traveling to Oahu in December and January; this is when the Honolulu Marathon begins, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
Late September, October, and November are less crowded in Maui, which means affordable rates as well.
The Big Island of Hawaii
The late summer and fall months – August, September, October, and November – are less rainy and less crowded on the Kailua-Kona side. If you’re visiting the Hilo side of the island, go during the dry season which begins in April and lasts until October.
Consider visiting Kauai in April, May, September, October, or November to beat the high costs and crowds, but mostly, to avoid the rain. This island receives the largest amount of rainfall, especially during the summer and winter months.
Additional Things to Consider When Booking a Trip to Hawaii
Hawaii is technically part of the US, but in a lot of ways, it feels like its own little nation. The islanders are a proud bunch who love their unique history, customs, culture, language, and food. Taking a little time to learn their ways will go a long way in making your vacation that much richer and rewarding. Here are a few ways you can embrace the aloha spirit:
Buy Local: Whether you’re buying local crafts, like a lei, or booking a whale-watching tour, consider using locally- and native-owned companies. If you see a “locals-only” placard on beaches or surf spots, respect the rule and go somewhere else; there is plenty of shoreline for everyone.
Try local flavors: Take your vacation as an opportunity to try Hawaiian and Polynesian foods: kalua (roasted pig), poke (diced and marinated raw fish), shave ice, haupia (coconut pudding), macadamia nuts, and fresh tropical fruits like mango and pineapple. There are tons of food trucks across Hawaii that serve “plate lunches” featuring authentic local dishes. You may have seen this if you’ve ever watched the show Hawaii Five-0.
Learn to be flexible with timing: Yes, “Hawaiian time” is actually a thing even though some may think it’s an offensive stereotype. Maybe it comes from living in a remote location where locals learned long ago that everything happens at a slower pace. You’d be better off leaving stress and impatience at home.
The Verdict: When is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii?
In terms of weather and affordable prices, the best months to visit Hawaii are April, May, October, and November. The summer months of July and August and the period from December to March, on the other hand, are the busiest and therefore, most expensive. Whichever Hawaiian Island you choose to visit, we hope this guide will help you pick the best time to plan your trip!
Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, Aloha!